Adios To A Dear Friend

In perfect understanding I shall come
And lay my hand in yours, and at your feet
Sit, silent, with my head against your knee.

                       Edna St. Vincent Millay

I wish I didn’t have to write this blog. I wish that I could turn the clock back, make different decisions, do something to make this a happy post. But I can’t. My buddy Zee, the dog I’ve mentioned in this blog more often than I have any other, died two weeks ago. The circumstances are too painful to describe, but my worst fears were realized when I took a trip to Maui to visit a friend. I’ve left the property and the country many times since Zee went blind, but this time was different. This time, I knew that she needed me more than before, this time I sensed that she was starting to lose her hearing and was not as aware of what was going on around her. And this time, there were people that were going to come and work on the house while I was gone. People who don’t know her like I do, who don’t love her like I do and who clearly didn’t realize, despite my admonishments, that they needed to be extra careful when they drove down the driveway.

Despite her passing so many days ago, I haven’t been able to write this until now. It’s been too emotional, too raw and each time I’ve tried my eyes have misted over so I can’t see the computer screen. As the days have passed though, I’ve tried to accept what I cannot change and comforted myself with the knowledge that she will not suffer any more.

While it’s impossible to know how difficult it was for her to be blind, how much she suffered as a result, I know that she was frightened more often than before. At times she’d get so excited – dinner time and when I said, “Wanna go to the beach Zee?”- that she’d run headlong into solid surfaces. That had to hurt. Despite her blindness, she never lost her love of joining me on the beach for a walk or run. She would brave the steps down to the beach, me guiding her with my voice and once we hit the sand, she would exhibit the same exuberance she did as a younger dog – rolling in the wet sand, trotting along with her head and tail held high. She used her nose to follow me and, if she lost my scent, when I called to her, she’d cock her head in the most adorable way, her ears held erect, as though she was thinking, “Is that you?” She’d zone in on the origin of my voice and come loping along until she caught up.

I hadn’t met Mr. T yet in 2002 when she arrived on his property, wrapped in a towel, tiny, dehydrated and nearly dead. Found in the Santa Catarina arroyo, she was left to die in the hot Baja sun along with the rest of her litter mates. She was the only one strong enough to survive. When he took her in his big hands, her eyes were white and her little body was stiff, but T hand fed her milk for several hours and by morning she was standing up in the cardboard box where she’d been placed, looking around curiously and wagging her tail in hopes of getting more nourishment from the nice man who’d nursed her back to health. The very next day she began wreaking havoc on everything and everyone, especially Doobie and Ruby, the two canines in residence. Not long after, he dubbed her “Crazy!” when he looked on in amazement as she ran down to the beach and launched herself into the shorebreak in a  somersault that would give Aly Raisman a run for her money.

In 2005 I was here alone for the first time looking after the dogs when she nearly succumbed to the tick-borne disease Ehrlichiosis. Zee was never one to turn down a meal, so when she refused to eat, I took her to the vet. To my great consternation, after giving her an injection of antibiotics and potassium to counteract the effects of starvation, he sent us home. That night as I fretted about being her only caretaker, her eyes turned white again. Convinced she was dying from hunger, I resorted to force feeding her a mixture of milk and raw egg using the plunger from a syringe to draw the liquid up and squirt it into her cheek. The first attempt failed as she wouldn’t swallow it, so I had to hold her mouth shut and her head aloft while massaging the fluid into her throat. I prayed a lot that night, asking God not to take her. But the main reason wasn’t because I was afraid of losing Zee, I honestly didn’t think it would do my relationship with T any good if she died on my watch.

Afterwards I sensed that she knew I’d helped her and a bond began to grow between us that was only strengthened when she began to lose her sight. I believe the disease left her permanently weakened and likely caused her blindness.

Before she lost her vision, at night I locked Zee in the garage along with a couple of the other dogs, where they had comfy dog beds and I knew they couldn’t get into trouble. In the desert, “trouble” can take many forms including skunks, coyotes, rattlesnakes and barking at nesting sea turtles. Once everything went permanently dark, Zee began freaking out when she was locked in the garage. One morning I discovered she’d clawed a big hole in the door frame and then the next she tore it off the wall completely. That’s when I knew I was going to have to make an exception to house rules and let her sleep inside with me. I brought first one and then, in time, two dog beds into the house – placing one in the living room, the other in my bedroom. From then on, she spent most of the time lying on one of those beds, content to be near me. If I walked anywhere on the property, she followed with her nose to the ground. If I left the property and didn’t invite her along, she trotted up the driveway and lay near the gate awaiting my return.

She got into the habit of quietly absconding with one of my flip-flops in the middle of the night. In the morning I’d find it in her bed, often under her chin. Thinking about it now, I find it hard to believe that the smell of my feet could be that comforting.

After the first few tentative descents, she figured out that the stairs in the house were evenly spaced, unlike those to the beach, so each morning she would navigate the stairs confidently, bouncing down from step to step two feet at a time. While visiting my friend in Central California last week, my heart lurched when I heard that familiar rhythmic clicking sound as her blind dog “No-Cow” used the same technique to go down the stairs.

Now that I’m home again the reminders are everywhere. The places she liked to lay, the toys she cheerfully carried up the driveway, the eye drops that relieved the pressure in her eye. Even the big fuzzy grey balls of her hair gathered in corners and under the couch choked me up enough that I made sweeping an unusually high priority when I got home. I don’t have the nerve to go look at the place where Felipe buried her. Just seeing her collar, the one covered in brightly colored peace signs, lying next to where she died made me cry. That collar was perfect for such a peaceful being. Even as a younger dog, when the other dogs chased cars, ATVs, cows and other dogs, she never joined in.

When I brought Peanut home, Zee was the only dog that would put up with her young exuberance.

Zee was the sweetest dog in my world, a constant reminder to be patient and loving, to live every day to the fullest, to choose quiet contentment over anger or complaint. If you were to tell me, as someone once did, that dogs are incapable of feeling emotions, let alone expressing them, I would have introduced you to Zee. You’d be hard pressed to dispute that her bark in response to, “Wanna go to the beach Zee?” was filled with enthusiasm or that she was smiling when she appeared at the barbecue, a paper plate held carefully in her mouth.

With any luck that corny poem that never fails to reduce me to tears, Beyond the Rainbow, will turn out to be true and she’ll be there waiting for me along with Soweso, Kipling, Fletcher, and Jinny when I leave this planet too.

The Joy Fuck Club

Warning: In case you missed the title, the following post contains adult content and coarse language not appropriate for children or prudish wankers.

A surfer buddy of mine who shall remain nameless sent me a joke yesterday about a materialistic woman and a fairly typical guy.

So this evening, after spending ALL day in front of the computer, I’m out running on the beach at low tide with my blind dog Zee zigzagging along behind me and I see a guy coming out of the water who’s a real jackass. I start thinking, “Oh great, Jackass is back…” when I catch myself and say, “Now Dawn, turn that shit around…” and I start telling myself he doesn’t mean to be a jackass and he’s just like the rest of us and, no, I’m no better than Mr. Jackass. Then because I’m not believing myself, I know I’m better than that jackass, I abandon reason and go with my loving kindness mantra (yeah, I really do that shit). It goes like this, “May all beings be filled with loving kindness, may they have compassion, may they be filled with joy, may they feel at peace and at ease…may all beings be filled with loving kindness…” You get the idea.

I’m running along, my breathing in sync with my internal mantra chanting and I decide to make myself smile to increase the positive vibe I’m starting to feel. That’s when my mind wanders off in a totally different direction, as it tends to do, and I start thinking about the joke my friend sent me. Suddenly, it dawns on me that following the reasoning of the joke my name would be Surffuck, as in a knighted Japanese guy, Sir Fuk. An even bigger smile breaks out on my face, and my chest inflates as I’m filled with pride at my great show of wit (delayed though it may have been). I soaked in that glow for a few seconds before returning to my mantra.

At times, when I really get into my mantra, I leave all the extra words out and just chant, “Loving kindness, compassion, joy, peace…loving kindness, compassion, joy, peace,…” So tonight I was running along and on autopilot. I wasn’t even thinking consciously about the mantra, the words just continued flowing through my mind in a stream. At one point though, when I turned my full attention back to my inner voice and this is what I was chanting:

Loving-kindness, compassion, joy, fuck, loving-kindness, compassion, joy, fuck.

Well, I started laughing right there on the beach in the dark. That last mile was over before I knew it and Mr. Jackass was completely exorcized from my mind. Then I realized I’d abandoned more than the mantra, I’d left my poor blind dog in the dust about half a mile back.

A Little Bit of Bliss

Image © Issare Rungjang courtesy of Dreamstime.com

Sometimes when I do yoga I am filled with this sense of calm contentment…happiness is what some might call it. Today was one of those days.

It’s flat and the surf has been non-existent or marginal since I returned from Canada on the 13th of May. I’ve been frustrated and irritable, in part, because of the poor conditions, in part because life hasn’t been cooperating, hasn’t been giving me what I want in other ways either. But today, today I meditated for the second time in a week after months of neglecting that practice and then I did my yoga.  By “my yoga,” I mean I did a series of asanas (postures) that were prescribed for me by my teacher and some that I do because I like to do them. They speak to my body in a way that is pleasing and brings a pleasant, healthful feeling to my being. Today the result is that, despite the way I’ve been feeling of late, I’m smiling as I type this (a gentle, non-tooth-revealing smile…one might even say a Mona Lisa-esque smile).

It wasn’t just the meditation or postures that led me to bliss today, it was a whole combination of things. The music that played as I moved into the next series of postures (Rejuvenation by Ron Allen), the uncharacteristically cool breeze wafting through the windows and across my body, the slight scent of pineapple in the air from the fruit left, like an offering, by my dear friend upon departure. It’s the book I’m reading too, that has given me a sense of inner peace and acceptance of things I have little control over. Things like who I fall in love with and how they react to my love. This little book is so full of wisdom and Truth that it blows my mind every time I pick it up. I’m underlining, in pencil, the passages that strike me and that I know to be the kind of wisdom that will set me free. Free from anxiety, free from loneliness, free from the depression that comes from anxiety, loneliness and a sense of having no control over one’s destiny that plagues me from time to time (particularly when the surf is off).

The book to which I am referring is “Love, Freedom, Aloneness: The Koan of Relationships.” It’s a compilation of teachings given by Osho, an eastern mystic to whom westerners flocked in the 1970s. I was introduced to the teachings of Osho by my Dutch artist friend. He too flew to India to hear him speak after a colleague of his underwent a dramatic, positive transformation by the experience. Like so many mystics, Osho is not without his detractors, nor flaws, but more than twenty years after his death he maintains a loyal following and his teachings continue to be published as theme-based collections by a major New York publishing house, St. Martin’s Press.

Of love, Osho said:

Love yourself…This can become the foundation of a radical transformation. Don’t be afraid of loving yourself. Love totally, and you will be surprised: The day you can get rid of all self-condemnation, self-disrespect – the day you can get rid of the idea of original sin, the day you can think of yourself as worthy and loved by existence – will be a day of great blessing. From that day onward you will start seeing people in their true light, and you will have compassion.

Create loving energy around yourself. Love your body, love your mind. Love your whole mechanism, your whole organism. By “love” is meant, accept it as it is.

Love is possible only when mediation has happened. If you don’t know how to be centered in your being, if you don’t know how to rest and relax in your being, if you don’t know how to be utterly alone and blissful, you will never know what love is…[because] Love is a sharing of overflowing joy. [During] meditation one is bathed in one’s own glory, bathed in one’s own light. One is simply joyous because one is alive, because one is… The greatest miracle in the world is that you are, that I am. To be is the greatest miracle – and meditation opens the doors of this great miracle.

When my meditation practice of many years waned a while back, as it often does, my yoga teacher said matter-of-factly, “You must make time to meditate. It is the most important thing. Everything else comes after.” I looked at her in disbelief and she responded, “Yes, more important even than asana practice.” Then, sensing my resistance, she looked at me sideways and said in her don’t-mess-with-me voice, “Just do it! Just sit. How hard is that?”

I’d love to hear from readers about your experiences with meditation. Or perhaps you’ve wanted to begin a practice of your own, but don’t know where to start. Here’s a link to a great little book that helped me get started.